“No-Pledge” Debate Organizers Cite Death Threats, Criticize Beck

The moderator and the organizer of an Illinois congressional debate who were criticized for not allowing the Pledge of Allegiance to be recited said they have received death threats and plan to go to law enforcement authorities to file complaints.

Each also blamed Fox News host Glenn Beck for stirring up opposition to their work by criticizing the incident and attacking them by name on his Fox News program, which they say has sparked an increase in hateful e-mails and phone calls since then.

“Our webmaster has stopped forwarding the e-mails to me because they have become so ugly,” said Jan Czarnik, executive director of the League of Women Voters of Illinois, which sponsored the Oct. 20 forum in Evanston. “I am getting death threats and I am taking it to our local FBI. There are postings on Fox News' Facebook page that include threats on my life.”

The forum included Republican and Tea Party candidate Joe Walsh, Incumbent Democrat Melissa Bean and Green Party candidate Bill Scheurer.

Kathy Tate-Bradish, the moderator for the debate, did not want to be quoted, but confirmed she has also been threatened by phone.

The incident, which has gotten heavy attention on the Internet, involved a member of the audience standing up as the debate was about to begin and asking if the Pledge of Allegiance would be recited.

“I have absolutely nothing for or against saying the Pledge of Allegiance,” Tate-Bradish said at the time after denying the request. That caused some in the crowd to boo and others began reciting the pledge themselves.

Tate-Bradish then commented that she had intended “no disrespect for the flag,” but that the pledge is not usually said at LWV debates and “has never been requested” at the forums she has moderated.

Since the incident, conservative blogs have taken up the issue, criticizing Czarnik and Tate-Bradish. Beck highlighted it on his show Monday night.

“What good reason is there for not saying it in this setting?” Beck asked. He later said Tate-Bradish “tried to scold” the crowd.

“What a bunch of hogwash. Listen to the arrogance,” Beck said about the moderator's actions, later saying of Czarnik: “Jan Czarnik, notice she has czar in her last name, is calling this phony patriotism by supporters of candidate Joe Walsh.”

Beck also claimed she worked with “ACORN's Project Vote, which is funded by Tides, and Soros.” Czarnik said she worked with Project Vote in the early 1980s, when it was not affiliated with ACORN.

“No one ever tried to contact me,” Czarnik said of Beck. “They didn't even have the courtesy to see if that is true. We have never had anything like this happen, ever.”

Czarnik cited two websites, Foxnation.com and Fox News' Facebook page, that have drawn angry comments, some threatening such as this at the Facebook page:

Traitors, all! They ought to be publicly hanged for their treasonous disrespect of the country.

But Czarnik said it is the threatening e-mails sent to her at the LWV offices, as well as phone calls, that have sparked the worst fear.

“I realize that all it takes is one angry crackpot with a blog to get a rifle and shoot me,” Czarnik said. “These people and these calls are identifying themselves as from all over the country.”

Her concerns come amidst a wave of right-wing violence, some of which was reportedly perpetrated by Beck fans caught up in the conspiracy theories he forwards on his programs.

One was Byron Williams, who engaged in a July 18 shootout with California Highway Patrol officers in Oakland. Williams reportedly admitted later he was on his way to kill members of the ACLU and the Tides Foundation in San Francisco and told Media Matters that Beck had “exposed” things that “blew my mind,” specifically Beck's conspiracy theory involving Soros, President Obama, and a Brazilian oil company -- a theory that Williams said informed his alleged plot.

The other is Richard Poplawski, who killed three Pittsburgh police officers on April 4, 2009. A friend told Media Matters' Will Bunch that Poplawski “loved Glenn Beck” and was obsessed with the idea that the stockpiling of food was necessary for a coming societal collapse that would render paper money worthless -- a theory often discussed by Beck.

Czarnik sent us several of the e-mails she says she has received at the LWV headquarters since Beck's show. Among them:

Please tell Executive Director Jan Czarnik and Kathy Tate-Bradish that if they prefer (and probably would), people in the crowd of any future debates can sing the Soviet hymn ... If they do not wish to do that, please tell those c*nty douche bags to go f*** themselves :)

You had better put a leash on your liberal lunatic Tate-Bradish. She will take you down. Her Pledge of Allegiance video is going viral, now that Beck outed her fanaticism. You will follow NPR down the rathole, thanks to her.

But Czarnik said the death threats have come by phone.

“I am taking it over to the FBI,” she said. “I am getting a lot of threatening phone calls and sadly a lot of them come from veterans.”

Tate-Bradish told us she reported the threatening e-mails to the Evanston police on Wednesday.